By Gary Walker
Venice residents in favor of pushing Los Angeles city officials to craft tighter rules governing short-term housing rentals didn’t get very far at a Venice Neighborhood Council meeting last month.
Advocates for short-term vacation rental property marketing services came out in full force to persuade council members against formally requesting that City Councilman Mike Bonin call for his council colleagues to establish a new regulatory structure.
The neighborhood council voted seven to three against pushing for further regulations at its Nov. 19 meeting. Three members of the council — Abigail Myers, Sylvia Aroth and Max Slone — recused themselves from the vote because they are involved with temporary rental arrangements.
Several members of Peers, an organization supportive of short-term vacation rentals that has been lobbying cities for acceptance of the growing trade, attended the meeting.
“Communities all over the world are trying to figure out how to treat these new economic models,” said Holly Minch, a staff member with Peers, which she said takes its name from the notion of peer-sharing.
There are no specific city ordinances regulating short-term rentals, but they are technically prohibited in residential areas that are zoned for single-family homes and duplexes or condominiums.
Those seeking to regulate the industry complain that many of these rentals operate under the table in residential neighborhoods and avoid paying a transient occupancy tax, a levy of 14% that hotels and motels apply to their guests bills.
Venice Neighborhood Council Vice President Marc Saltzberg said a major concern is whether Venice residents who are paying the tax and believe that they are operating legally may actually be doing something illegal.
“This is a type of business that has been here since Venice was Venice,” Saltzberg said. “I don’t think anyone in Venice wants short-term rentals to be removed.”
The cottage industry of temporary housing rental properties has blossomed through online marketing services in recent years. With its tourist attractions and beach, world-famous boardwalk and year-round sunny weather, Venice has become a hotspot for landlords who want to transition from traditional long-term leases to more temporary stays.
Airbnb.com, a website that advertises short-term and vacation rentals nationwide, listed more than 1,000 properties in Venice last month, Saltzberg said. As of Dec. 3, the site offered 875 rentals in Venice.
Bonin said the short-term rental industry has been “on the council’s radar” for quite a while.
“My main concern is if folks are renting out their property and the city is not collecting its share of the [transient occupancy tax].”
Other local bodies are also attempting to address concerns surrounding these rentals, which are in frequently used during the spring and summer months. The Silver Lake Neighborhood Council unsuccessfully sought to ban short-term rentals in October.
Judith Goldman, a longtime Venice resident, said she does not want the practice banned but would like to see city officials regulate them as they do with hotels and motels.
“On our short walk street we now have at least six [short-term rental] houses that have become what can best be described as out of control nuisance houses … with frequently noisy out-of-control parties and cars parked overnight blocking the alley,” Goldman told the council. “These are not ‘granny-type’ houses or room rentals in homes occupied by the long-term residents who live on the property and are sharing their homes and supervising guests, or one of the lovely ‘home-stay’ places with onsite hosts that many of us have enjoyed when traveling.”
Carl Lambert, a Venice hotel owner and vice president of the Venice Chamber of Commerce, thinks a solution for all parties can be worked out with a bit of tweaking.
Lambert called for a plan to “bring together short-term housing providers and the community to provide a workable ordinance that would satisfy the housing providers and protect the community.” He proposes having existing short-term rental properties grandfathered in under a new law that would register landlords with the city for a fee that would be used to provide monitoring via a management company or representative of the landlord.
“Short-term rental providers want certainty and they want to be legalized,” said Lambert.
Lambert’s proposal could solve one of the problems that Saltzberg has heard from his constituents regarding landlords who rent apartments or homes on a temporary basis but do not live in the neighborhood and do not provide contact information to the city.
“If you live in a hotel and a guest next to you is causing a disturbance, you can complain to the front desk,” Saltzberg said. “But if the property owner doesn’t live in the community area, there’s no front desk.”
Dede Audet, a former Venice Neighborhood Council president, believes short-term rentals are helping to keep increasingly expensive homes affordable for some families.
“I believe that older persons whose homes were saved by the Proposition 13 reduction in taxation now appear to have inheritors who, likewise, are able to stay in Venice because they can make a little money from a short term rental,” Audet said.